Cranial Insertion: Exercises in Existentialism

Exercises in Existentialism
By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

Greetings, loyal readers, and welcome to another edition of CI. After watching the political conventions of the past two weeks, I feel like I should be making a speech here. However, we at CI feel that our articles can stand on their own rules merits and dubious humor. Bad puns? Yes we can!

If you would like to see your rules questions in print, send them to us at [email][email protected][/email]. We answer all the ones we get, and then Moko picks the most interesting ones for the column.

Let’s see what he’s chosen this week.

Q: My question is in regard to creatures with activated abilities involving untapping, combined with costs that involve tapping them. As an example, suppose I have a Gilder Bairn and a Springleaf Drum in play. Can I tap the Drum + Bairn to add mana to my pool after I’ve announced the activation of the Bairn’s ability, with the intent of using that mana to pay part of the cost of the Bairn’s activated ability? Would it matter whether the Bairn started out in a tapped or untapped state before I announced the ability?

A: You can do this. Costs to play abilities are played in any order, and mana abilities are played first. Thus, you can announce the Bairn’s untap ability, then use Springleaf Drum, tapping the Bairn, to get the mana you need. When the time comes to pay for the Bairn’s ability, you have the mana and a tapped Bairn.

Of course, if this confuses your opponent, you can just play the mana ability, then play the {Q} ability. This non-sneaky method won’t win you any style points, but it will head off potential questions from your opponent.

You can't trust her economic policies.
Q: If a player has -1 or less life and has Platinum Angel so that they don't lose the game, what is the echo cost of Volcano Hellion? Is the echo cost zero or does it have an unpayable echo cost?

A: The echo cost will be zero because it's unpayable. The Hellion’s ability can track your life total as far down as it may go, but when it comes time to pay echo, you can’t pay negative mana. That would cause you to gain mana as a cost, and the game would explode in a fit of economic existentialism. Before that happens, though, you can just pay 0 mana instead.

Q: Does the trio of Griffin Canyon, Unnatural Selection, and Nature’s Revolt make an arbitrarily large non-flying Griffin man-land?

A: It does. Nature’s Revolt makes Griffin Canyon a creature, Unnatural Selection can make it a Griffin, and then it can tap itself to untap itself and get +1/+1 until end of turn. You are now the proud controller of an extremely large, though earthbound, Griffin.

Q: We were playing four-player FFA and one of us played a Necroskitter. Later on, another guy copied the Necroskitter with Vesuvan Shapeshifter. Then my Swans of Bryn Argoll went to the graveyard. My question is in two parts:

1. Who gets control of my Swans?
2. Did it matter that the other Necroskitter was really a Vesuvan Shapeshifter?

A1: Both Necroskitters will trigger in turn order of the players controlling them, starting with the active player and going around the table. Whoever’s Necroskitter trigger went onto the stack last will end up with control of the Swans.

A2: Nope. Vesuvans are so good at disguise that they’re indistinguishable from whatever they copy. This isn’t surprising, since their homeland copies other lands. Copy effects end up making an exact duplicate of the chosen creature, so there are no differences for the game to see.

503.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object’s characteristics (name, mana cost, color, card type, supertype, subtype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, loyalty) and, for an object on the stack, choices made when playing it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether a kicker cost was paid, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The “copiable values” are the values that are printed on the object, as modified by other copy effects, by “as . . . comes into play” and “as . . . is turned face up” abilities that set characteristics, and by abilities that caused the object to be face down. Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied.

Q: If I use Banishing Knack on Puresight Merrow, and then, before the end of the turn, I use Spitting Image on that Puresight Merrow, does the token lose “:symtap:: Return target nonland permanent to it’s owner’s hand” at the end of turn?

A: Can you lose something you never had? The philosophy majors amongst our readers can debate that one, but the reality is that the token will never have that ability. Spitting Image is a copy effect, which copies only what’s printed on the card, with the few (and rare) exceptions noted in the Comp Rules quote above.

Secret warehouse of the Vesuvan
Shapeshifting home-study course.
Q: What would happen if my opponent casts Magus of the Moon and, in response, I activate my Mutavault? Will the Magus make my animated Mutavault a regular non-animated Mountain, or will the Mountain still be a 2/2 with all creature types until end of turn?

A: Magus of the Moon is a very powerful figure in Standard right now, but even his vast powers are limited. The Magus can only affect the land types of Mutavault, not its creature types. So for this turn, your Mutavault is still animated, and it has all creature types, but just one land type.

After the animation effect wears off, it’ll just be an ordinary Mountain. Well, as long as you consider a Mountain named “Mutavault” to be ordinary. I don’t, and neither does my world atlas.

Q: Lets say there is a Sower of Temptation in play stealing your Grizzly Bears. What would happen if you steal that Sower with another Sower? Would you just have two faeries or all three creatures?

A: Three’s a crowd. You’d just have the two Sowers. Sower’s triggered ability is independent of the creature itself. It only matters who controlled that, not who controls the Sower as the game goes on.

Q: What happens when the creature stolen by Sower of Temptation phases out?

A: Nothing special. When it phases back in, however, the stolen creature will return to play under its owner’s control. Sower’s effect has a limited duration, and the rule below shows us that such effects lose track of a permanent when it phases out:

502.15g Effects with limited duration and delayed triggered abilities that specifically reference a permanent will be unable to further affect that permanent if it phases out. However, other effects that reference the permanent (including effects with unlimited duration) can affect the permanent when it returns to play.

Q: Can I imprint Ancestral Vision on Panoptic Mirror? I think I can't because it has no mana cost and therefore I can't find a value for X to pay for the Mirror’s ability. My friend, on the other hand, thinks I can imprint it, but that I can't play it once the Mirror's trigger resolves since it has no cost. I hope that neither of these is right.

A: Hope and you shall receive. Ancestral Visions, like all the manaless suspend cards, has no mana cost, which means its converted mana cost is 0. Panoptic Mirror only cares about the converted mana cost for imprinting, so you can imprint Visions on the Mirror. When it comes time to try and play Visions . . . you can. Mirror’s “play it without paying its mana cost” clause allows you to play the spell and avoid the problem of paying a cost that doesn’t exist. More economic existentialism!

Bonus: Evermind, the original manaless spell, couldn’t be played by any means, no matter what. That was the way the rules worked at that time. Players came up with very convoluted “what if?” scenarios, but despite their best Rube Goldberg attempts, the answer was always that you couldn’t play Evermind. Then Time Spiral came along with more manaless spells and a new mechanic (suspend), and the rules changed.

Q: If a creature with champion becomes a copy of another creature with champion, would it bring the championed card back when it leaves play?

A: It will not. Champion is actually an example of linked abilities. Even though the creature’s new champion ability looks suspiciously like its old one, the fact remains that they’re not the same ability. The new champion ability will not be able to track a card removed by the old one.

407.1. An object may have two abilities printed on it such that one of them causes actions to be taken or objects to be affected and the other one directly refers to those actions or objects. If so, these two abilities are linked: the second refers only to actions that were taken or objects that were affected by the first, and not by any other ability.

THAT'll teach you to think existentially!
Q: Can I play Pithing Needle on Razormane Masticore?

A: Sure.

Q: Then how come my opponent tells me he still gets to activate the “deal 3 damage” ability?

A: Because that ability is triggered, not activated. It triggers at the beginning of the draw step. As a triggered ability, it is quite safe from the meddling of Pithing Needle.

"Pithing Needle? I'd laugh if I could."
Q: So why did you tell me I could name Razormane Masticore?

A: Because you can. It’s a legal choice. The fact that it’s a terrible choice from a strategic perspective has no bearing on the question. Judges should answer the question that you actually ask, not the one you wanted to ask, nor the one we were supposed to read your mind and figure out. If you want to know something, ask, as specifically as you can. Had the question been, “Will Pithing Needle stop the damage ability of Razormane Masticore?” a judge would say, “No.”

Q: How do pump effects apply to Snakeform? My friend pumped a Stillmoon Cavalier twice and sent it in. I Snakeform it and chump it. Does the cavalier keep his +2/+0 or does he just turn into a 1/1 snake? I’m asking because we assumed the latter, but Magic Online goes with the former, which seems sort of illogical.

A: It is illogical, mainly because it’s wrong. The Cavalier’s pumps and Snakeform’s P/T-setting both apply in the same layer (6b). Since Snakeform was the last to resolve, it will make the Cavalier a 1/1. If Magic Online is leaving it as a 3/1, you should file a bug report.

Q: I control an Izzet Guildmage and have 10 available mana (some of it red, some blue). I also have a Jilt in hand, and my opponent controls 3 creatures. I know I can make him pick up all his creatures, but can I also dome him for 6?

A: You can get the extra damage, yes, but keep in mind that Jilt’s “kicked” ability only damages another creature. When you copy a spell, you copy the choices made when playing it, including whether a kicker cost was paid. So your Jilt copies, in addition to bouncing creatures, will also do 2 damage another creature.

You’ll see rule 503.2, which covers this scenario, pasted a few questions above here.

Q: Can Glamer Spinners move an aura onto a creature that has shroud?

Yes. Auras only target the object they’ll be attached to when they’re on the stack. Abilities that move them, so long as they don’t target the new recipient, can move the aura onto a permanent that has shroud.

Q: Can I make any mana if my only lands are Reflecting Pools?

No. Neither Pool “could produce” anything, so when each looks at the other, neither will be able to produce any mana in this scenario. I wonder what Nietzsche would say about staring into a Reflecting Pool instead of an abyss?

Q: If I have Mana Reflection in play and put red mana into Graven Cairns, what will I end up with? RRRR? BBBB? RRBB?

A: You’ll get double of whatever you chose for Graven Cairns’ ability. If you chose for the Cairns to make :symb::symb:, then they’ll produce BBBB. Keep in mind that you also have an extra red mana floating from the beginning of this process, so you really get five mana from your two lands, which isn’t bad.

That’s all we have for this edition of CI. Shards of Alara Prereleases are coming up (last weekend of the month), and we’ll be covering that set in detail starting on Prerelease weekend. Until then, we’ll slog thru questions about existing cards, even if they're about Snakeform and Mirrorweave.

-Tom Fowler


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